Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

First ever 'wholphin' hybrid spotted in wild

First ever 'wholphin' hybrid spotted in wild

The research team will return to Kauai next week, hoping to confirm their theory. Having noted a pair of melon-headed whales, they observed that one of the pair had pigementation and morphological features that suggested that it might in fact be a hybrid.

This Aug. 11, 2017, photo provided by Cascadia Research shows a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin, in the foreground, swimming next to a melon-headed dolphin near Kauai, Hawaii.

The researchers told CBS News that the animal's father was a rough-toothed dolphin and the mother a melon-headed whale.

A new species of aquatic mammal, a hybrid of a whale and a dolphin, has been identified in waters near Hawaii. The unusual thing about this case, he added, was that scientists only saw one melon-headed whale (not counting the hybrid) spending time with a group of rough-toothed dolphins.

It proved to be an eventful project for the team, as they were also able to spot and tag two other species that are seldom seen in the location: melon-headed whales and pantropical spotted dolphins.

The Navy-funded research had aimed to study the effects of sonar.

A report published last week by ocean research organisation Cascadia Research Collective concluded that a mammal spotted off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, in August past year is indeed the product of mating between a dolphin and a whale.

Cascadia has conducted field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawai'i, Mexico, and the waters off Central America.

But an animal hybrid doesn't necessarily mean a new species - not even established hybrids, such as the mule.

'Genetic analyses of a biopsy sample obtained from the putative hybrid in comparison to a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin indicated that the individual has the genotype expected for an F1 hybrid at 11 of 14 nucleotide positions, ' the authors wrote.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense". "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know".

Some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, but other things would still need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation.

The hybrid was only traveling with one companion - a melon-headed whale.

Scientists don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age. Other animals belonging to that category are killer whales and pilot whales.

It's unclear if this is true for this latest hybrid animal.

The hybrid named Keikaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.

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